As I wrote last week, your own data is something you need to be yours. Many – myself included – willingly trade access to that data in exchange for something, say, access to a platform. Well, some data you may want to keep off-limits. Surprisingly, Amazon is here to help you do exactly that.
Bloomberg first reported on this capability, and a few days ago Engadget helped spread the news. Well, I guess that’s what we’re doing now, too. As you know, if you have any sort of voice assistant, or something with Alexa built-in, the device is ALWAYS listening. This is not out of any sense of creepiness (though, sure, it could feel that way) but it has to know when you’ve said it’s “wake” word, and to start responding to your commands.
The heart of these products and services is the device being able to accurately interpret what it is you’re saying to it, without having to go through the voice-training that you had to do with earlier voice-to-text transcription tools. To help with that, Amazon has the option and capability to listen to the recordings and compare what the human ear hears versus what the algorithms heard. If you don’t want those human ears listening, you DO have the option to opt on out. You just need to get into your Alexa app (on your phone or tablet) and do the following:
- Click on the icon in the upper-left, and select ‘Settings’
- Select ‘Alexa Privacy’
- Select ‘Manage How Your Data Improves Alexa’
- Turn the slider to ‘Off’ for ‘Help Improve Amazon Services and Develop New Features’
- In the confirmation window that pops up, select ‘Turn Off’
And just like that, you’ve managed to single-handedly cripple the ability for Amazon to develop new services. Or, you know, at least tell them to keep their nose out how badly you mangle the names of the songs you want it to play. And if you think this couldn’t happen to you? Check out these two articles (here and here) on how Ring and Amazon aren’t being a good partner to their customers.